At the heart of this quiet journey through the southern fringes of the Howardian Hills is the glory that is Castle Howard.
The big house is visible from the public right of way, as are several monuments, obelisks and other interesting follies which are dotted about one of the most famous estates in the country.
Castle Howard was started in 1699 by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, a descendant of the Dukes of Norfolk, on the site of Henderskelfe Castle. The first castle at Henderskelfe was erected by the Normans in the 11th century. It was rebuilt towards the end of the 17th century, but burned down within a few years to be replaced almost immediately by the magnificent house we see today.
Castle Howard was designed by the soldier-turned-playwright John Vanbrugh, who had never attempted anything like it before. In fact, it was his first architectural commission, his design talents previously being confined to theatre sets.
Early in the last century, on the death of the 9th Earl of Carlisle, the Howard estates were split. The eldest son inherited the title and the original family seat of Naworth Castle, near Carlisle, while Castle Howard went to the 9th earl’s widow. It then descended upon a younger son.
The house was renovated and returned to its former glory after the Second World War by the Hon George Howard, a former chairman of the BBC, who was created a life peer, taking the title Baron Howard of Henderskelfe. The estate remains with the Howard family.
Welburn, our starting point, is an attractive stone community with a reference in Domesday Book of 1086. The unusually-named village hostelry, the Crown and Cushion, was originally known as the Horse and Groom, but a Royal visit changed all that. When Queen Victoria stayed at Castle Howard in 1850, the inn was renamed to mark the occasion.
Next door to the pub is Temperance Inn Farm, once a pub called The Bull. The inn had its licence rescinded more than 100 years ago by the wife of the 9th Earl of Carlisle, the-then owner of Castle Howard, who was a diehard abstainer. The countess also closed the Slip Inn in Bulmer, making that village “dry”.
WELBURN AND CASTLE HOWARD
6 ¾ miles. Allow: 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 300 Howardian Hills
Park with consideration, please, in Main Street, Welburn, in the vicinity of the Crown and Cushion pub and the Leaf and Loaf cafe and start out along Main Street in a westerly direction, passing red phone box on your left and then a former chapel, and then spot the nameplate (on your left) for The Close.
Within a few yards, at safety barrier, turn left, up steps, at sign for Welburn Community Primary School. Go up side of school fence (fingerpost) and continue by fence past the school car park and then go straight on (fingerpost) along an enclosed path between wire fence on left and hedge on right. Go through gate and straight up the field to a wood.
On entering vehicle track just before wood, ignore the fingerpost and turn RIGHT and follow this stout track to the Castle Howard road, turn left for 40 yards and then turn right along a short vehicle track for 20 yards and then, just before logs guarding entrance to a ploughed field, turn left through the trees with hedge line on your right.
After a couple of hundred yards, go over a vehicle track and continue straight ahead through the trees. At the next vehicle track, spot the fingerpost to your left by the road (and also the Carlisle Memorial Tower built in 1869 in memory of the 7th Earl of Carlisle, 1802 – 1864, a renowned politician.) – turn right, through gate, on vehicle track.
After about 100 yards, just past a small plantation of sleeved saplings, turn right at marker post with arrow along a grass track into a wood (Bulmer Hag). Follow the track to the next marker with three arrows and bear left on the main track.
This leads unerringly to the end of the wood, enter field, turn right into field corner and then turn left. At next field corner, turn left down the slope, passing an arrow on your right after about 80 yards. At bottom of field, just before a small wood, turn RIGHT to follow the edge of the wood as it curls left.
Continue into field corner – passing arrow on fence on your left – and then turn right along edge of field with a ditch to your left. On arriving at two-sided fingerpost with an access road to your left, go straight ahead to kissing gate and then go half right (arrow) up the field (no path) to an obvious tree in the hedge line on the skyline. As you approach this tree, spot the marker post to its left.
1: Go past marker and follow the hedge on your right with the roof tops of Bulmer ahead. Go past a water tank (mud!), through gate and straight up the slope to a circular tank and a redundant stile and, here, turn left across the field to a kissing gate (arrow) and then go half left over next field to a gate to left of trees with a new, light-coloured wooden fence visible behind it.
Go through kissing gate to left of a gate (mud!) and go half right over field to the new fencing and go through gate to its right and follow an enclosed path into Bulmer. On entering road, turn right, past St Martin’s Church, and go through the village.
St Martin’s was built in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest of 1066. If you take time out for a closer look, seek out the herringbone-pattern stonework on the wall facing the road, a rare surviving segment of an earlier Saxon or Danish church on this site.
Also inside the church is another link with the earlier building - the head of a Saxon wheel cross. There, too, is an important stone effigy of a knight, one of the oldest stone effigies in Yorkshire. It is believed to be Sir John de Bulmer who died in 1268.
The Bulmer family acquired the manor and that of neighbouring Sheriff Hutton at the end of the 11th century - Bertram de Bulmer was Sheriff of Yorkshire before 1100 which is how Sheriff Hutton got the first part of its name. The family stayed at Bulmer for some 450 years until another Sir John Bulmer made the fatal mistake of joining the ill-fated Pilgrimage of Grace in 1537, an attempt to stop Henry VIII’s seizure of the monasteries.
The Bulmer lands were confiscated to the Crown and the unfortunate Sir John was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. His wife, Margaret - “a very fayre creature and beautiful” - suffered an equally-violent end, being burned at the stake at Smithfield.
A slab inside St Martin’s records that Charles Howard, third Earl of Carlisle, builder of Castle Howard, was buried inside the church in 1738, his body being removed to the mausoleum at Castle Howard after its completion in 1745.
Sweep left with the road and then sweep right and immediately go off left, just before a triangular green with tree, down minor lane, past the village hall, and then, at fingerpost, go straight ahead over the grass to a walkers’ gate (Northfield Cottage on your right).
Turn right along an enclosed path into field and then turn left along wire fence, enter next field, go straight across, through hedge, and straight across next field to a waymarked kissing gate in field corner. Turn right along field edge and follow it to a minor road, turn left for 100 yards and then turn right at fingerpost for Brandrith Wood (not through the gates!) to continue with hedge on your right.
At end of second field, do not go straight ahead through gap in hedge, but turn left up towards the wood with hedge on your right. At end of hedge, turn right into Brandrith Wood and press on along a good path, soon passing (on our visit) a “forest operations” notice.
Keep straight on along the vehicle track, soon passing log piles on your right. This broad track leads out of the wood passing a silo on your right (ignore right turn just past silo). Go straight ahead to enter the Castle Howard road (The Stray) and turn left and walk single file, facing the traffic, or, better, use the wide grass verge down to your right.
2: Follow the road up to the Castle Howard estate wall and continue to the arch – obelisk ahead, built 1714 with tributes to the Duke of Marlborough and the third Earl of Carlisle, builder of Castle Howard – and immediately turn right along tarred access lane with the Howard family mausoleum (completed in 1745) to your front left.
After a few hundred yards, ignore first fingerpost pointing right – press on along the road with the Pyramid (built 1728) to your front right, one of many follies dotted about the Castle Howard grounds. Another one is a mock castle keep which pops into view on your right at the first fingerpost. Then, the big house appears to your left.
Go past the Pyramid to next fingerpost – the ornamental New River Bridge across to your left – and, just beyond the fingerpost, turn right for Welburn along a vehicle track, the lefthand and most prominent of two vehicle tracks.
After 100 yards, go past a blue arrow (which confirms you are on the correct route) into a wood (East Moor Banks) and then, at three-sided fingerpost within 100 yards, turn left through a gate for Crambeck (fingerpost slightly out of line).
Stride out for half a mile to a fingerpost and arrow (with the Four Faces folly ahead), and, here, turn half right downhill through the wood. This fine path leads to a stile - pass it on its right – and continue to a three-sided fingerpost and go straight on for Welburn.
Go up slope to exit wood via a riders’ gate and go up left side of field with Welburn appearing across to your right. Go over brow and on to end of field, pass through open gate, ignore fingerposts on your left, and turn right to a two-sided fingerpost and take the righthand path for Welburn.
A good path leads to an arrow at hedge corner – continue with hedge on your left and then, when hedge finishes, go half left over the final field aiming for the spire of Welburn church. Enter road on edge of Welburn and turn right to the finish.